Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just Think About it

Yeah, I know, you've never heard anyone even to begin to suggest what I brought up in my last post. Even his detractors acknowledge that he's honest, etc. At least that's the reaction that I get in conversation when I suggest that Nagin was either a fraud when elected, or he's been corrupted.

I'll admit it, I've got a tough sell trying to convince people that the Nagin administration is a corrupt one. After all, in addition to Nagin's well-known reputation for honesty, there's also his well-publicized efforts to clean up city hall and reform the RTA.

Problem is the efforts never bore much fruit. He never went very far up the food chain at either the taxi cab bureau or the inspections bureau-- seemed to many that he plucked some low hanging fruit or made an example of a few sacrificial lambs.

But he reformed the RTA, right? Not quite, he paid the former mayor's uncle $650,000 and hoped that the federal government would actually finish the job. To be fair, it seemed like the smart thing to do at the time.

On the other hand, even before Katrina, the city awarded some rather questionable contracts, such as awarding a somewhat questionable parking contract:

The city chose to treat the contract award as a professional service, meaning the job did not have to go to the lowest bidder. WorldWide Parking, one of the losing bidders, has challenged that decision in court, where the case is still pending.

and purchasing "bomb-proof" garbage cans (seriously) from a firm that business dealings with the mayor's CAO.

Since Katrina, the mayor has been excessively secretive about both the city's and his campaign's finances. Individuals have every right to be secretive about their personal matters, but excessive secrecy about public finances should always be a red flag. Beyond that, to read the few articles about city finances that have appeared about city finances and then hear that "everybody" "knows" that the mayor is honest, is to be reminded of an old Richard Pryor joke--who you gonna believe, "everybody" or your own lying common sense?

Former Nagin CAO Charles Rice (of the bomb proof garbage cans) might have left city hall, but he still seems to have involvement in the city's finances:

Weeks after Charles Rice left his post as chief administrative officer of the city of New Orleans in June, the city sanitation department sought to hire a contractor for storm debris removal.

The day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, Mayor Ray Nagin signed a contract potentially worth tens of millions of dollars with Omni Pinnacle of Slidell.

Omni's offer wasn't the cheapest of the six offers the city received. But the city didn't have to pick the low bidder, an experienced firm, because the job was considered a professional service rather than a finite task.

City sanitation director Veronica White, who oversaw the selection process, was hired into her city post by Rice. Rice, meanwhile, has turned up on Omni's payroll in his new position as a lawyer. Omni has also been represented in contract talks with the city and the Army Corps of Engineers by Rice's brother, Terrence Rice, according to a corps official

There's still more about Rice:

Another business owner who has also wound up with a lucrative subcontract from ECC, according to the firm, is Michael Sullivan, owner of TSG Solutions. Charles Rice has described Sullivan as a friend and occasional dinner companion. Sullivan won two subcontracts from city agencies during Rice's tenure as chief administrative officer, with deals netting TSG at least $1.3 million, according to city records.

To be fair, Rice's name didn't show up in connection with all the city contracts awarded:

Shaw's major subcontractors include some companies well-known around City Hall. Among them: the engineering firms Three Fold Consultants, N-Y Associates and Citywide Testing and Inspection, the last one owned by Roy Glapion Jr., son of a late city councilman. All three firms have been active players in local politics, and Citywide and N-Y in particular have often been tapped for public contracts, public records show. All three companies have donated to Nagin's campaigns, with Three Fold giving a total of $6,000 and Citywide and N-Y Associates $10,000 apiece, state campaign finance records show.

The above mentioned TSG can also be found in a list of Nagin campaign donors, so for that matter can AMID landfill. They can be found along with CH2MHILL, Third Shiloh and MCCI.

Interesting quote from the last link:

Edwards, who was originally appointed to the water board by former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy -- and who was retained by Barthelemy's successor, Marc Morial -- has long been known for his activism in the board's contracting practices. Nagin has never appointed Edwards, but has allowed him to continue serving even though his term expired in late 2003.

Finally, though political alliances alone can't prove anything, Nagin has the backing of his full share of politicians of dubious reputation and their apologists. According to Jeff Crouere, George Bush backed him, Clio Fields backed him, William Jefferson backed him, and Dwight McKenna's newspaper endorsed him.

On the last point, The New Orleans Tribune bitterly denounced Nagin when he appeared to be trying to rid city government of patronage*, saying, in effect, how dare he, it's out turn. Of course, the above is all circumstantial. I suppose that everybody I talk to is correct and I'm just crazy to think that Nagin is every bit as corrupt as any of his predecessors.

If I am right, and interesting thought occurs to me. Nagin would be the biggest patsy of all time if he thought the he had made a deal with the Bush White-- he blames everything on Blanco and Bush supports him in return. Then the White House helps Nagin get re-elected, knowing that the Justice Department was planning an investigation. That's probably a little much, but I wouldn't put anything past them. As I said, on TV tonight, Jeff Crouere reported that the Bush administration let the N.O. Republican Party know that Nagin was their candidate.

Finally, I should say that, rather than contradicting the Oyster-Adrastos theory, my theory complements it perfectly.

*I have no idea whether the honest reformer image was based on a lie from the beginning, or whether Nagin made compromises.

Additional note: The Justice Department investigation idea was more a mindfart than anything else. It would be hard to imagine that the Bush administration would have much interest in investigating reconstruction contracts.

Why didn't Mitch point any of these things out?
Because he is a typical wishy washy Democrat who doesn't know how to fight. Where are the Edwin Edwardses or Huey Longs when you really need them?
In Landrieu's defense, the way modern campaign coverage works, it's safer to make sleazy innuendos than to call your opponent on them. If Landrieu answered Nagin by pointing out that he's doing business with and taking contributions from firms that have been doing business with city hall for years, he'd have benn accused of going negative. Throw in how hard it is to get the media to change its preconceived notions, and it would have been risky at best.

If there was ever a candidate who needed third party surrogates to do the attacking it was Landrieu. Unfortunately, it was Nagin who had them; Landrieu needed somebody to point out to black evacuees that it was Nagin's buddy who made the original comment about not bringing the wrong people back.

I'm somewhat surprised that all the conservative emails I got were anti-Landrieu. I expected some about chocolate city and Jesse Jackson. I have no doubt that once those conservative mails get started, the spread is mostly grass roots, but the fact we didn't see any outraged Jackson/Nagin emails adds to the suspicion that they all get their start from organized groups with mailing lists.
Also, it does bring up the point that all the talk of uniting behind the mayor needs to be accompanied by demands for accountability.
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